November 11 has arrived and, as every year, the Chinese have celebrated the Singles day with the largest day of online shopping in the world. In addition to an unparalleled consumer orgy, this year’s edition took place amid the coronavirus pandemic that continues to plague the planet and sink the global economy. With the coronavirus already under control in China, the country where it broke out in January in the city of Wuhan, Singles Day has put the recovery of consumption to the test within its return to normality.
To do this, Chinese internet sales giants, such as Alibaba Y JD.com, have thrown the house out of the window with an avalanche of offers and promotions with the aim of breaking last year’s record. Alibaba alone, the firm founded by tycoon Jack Ma, had a turnover of 268,400 million yuan (about 35,000 million euros), double that of other similar days of discounts such as “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday.”
After breaking records in each edition, this year the challenge was to check the Chinese consumer appetite in the post-Covid 19 era. And it is seen that he is still alive despite the pandemic. At the end of the day, Alibaba reported that they had been sold 498,200 million yuan (63,858 million euros), almost double than last year. But, unlike in 2019, it had not been in 24 hours, but since November 1.
Despite the recovery of China After the collapse of the economy in the first quarter, private consumption is the variable that is having the most effort to overcome due to the uncertainty generated by the coronavirus. This is demonstrated by the poor rise in inflation in October, the lowest since October 2009 at just 0.5% year-on-year, and the lagging figures for retail sales compared to other macroeconomic indicators. In order to dispel these ghosts, Alibaba this year was offering the 800 million customers of its sales portals succulent discounts on more than 16 million items of 250,000 brands. Of these, 200 were luxury, double the number last year. In addition to JD.com, its main competitor, other companies have taken advantage of Singles Day to launch their own bargains. For more than a month, the announcements of offers had been happening everywhere and even the regime of the Communist Party has promoted the promotion of Singles Day to demonstrate its success in the economic recovery after the pandemic.
In a ceremony smaller and with less luster than other years due to coronavirus restrictions, Alibaba launched this marathon shopping day at midnight from its headquarters in the city of Hangzhou. In what is now a tradition for Chinese consumerism, the numbers on the revenue meter began to move frantically after the countdown. Within half an hour, sales of 372,300 million yuan (47,690 million euros) had already been exceeded and the order rate was a record 583,000 per second.
By lengthening Singles Day for more than a week, Alibaba tries to make up for its recent fiasco due to the suspension of the IPO of its financial arm, Grupo Ant, which was going to be the largest in history. Instead of raising $ 39.67 billion (€ 33.994 million), as planned, Alibaba ended up losing $ 76 billion (€ 64.264 million) of market value due to the fall of its shares due to the surprising suspension at the last minute for not complying the new regulations required by the authorities.
Taking advantage of the fact that November 11 is the date with the most ones on the calendar, Alibaba invented this day in 2009 in response to Valentine’s Day, so that singles would cure their lack of love by compulsively shopping online. Since then, it has become a phenomenon that sums up China’s economic and social evolution. With a middle class of 300 million people and more than 800 million Internet users, China leads the world internet sales, carried out mainly with mobile phones. Relying on the abundance of cheap items made in this country, e-commerce platforms have proliferated, employing legions of pieceworkers. On this day alone, China sells well more than many multinationals invoice in a year or the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a hundred countries.
If in 2009 only 27 companies participated, with a turnover of 52 million yuan (6.6 million euros) offering discounts of 50% and free shipping, last year more than 200,000 brands from 78 countries did so, including Spain. Although this year’s Alibaba gala could not have international stars due to the pandemic, Katy Perry sang online to kick off a new Singles Day. If last year the star sales were of cosmetics, for this one they were expected to be of health products and luxury items, since the Chinese cannot go abroad. Marked by the coronavirus, Singles Day also puts on the mask.